One solution that at least buys us time to develop new treatments is to reduce the amount of antibiotics being administered. This will mean a reduced likelihood of microbes developing resistance.
This is an approach that’s being taken extremely seriously in Finland. “We have very strict policies in using antibiotics,” says Anssi Tast, Evidensia Finland’s Vice President.
“We follow a similar approach to that in human medicine, where we want to be absolutely sure there is a real need for antibiotics before we use them.”
Microbes that develop resistance to antibiotics, he notes, “don’t understand if they are killing animals or humans.”
This approach goes beyond limiting prescriptions to promoting the highest possible hygiene standards. When Evidensia builds new facilities, for example, its operating theatres have air-conditioning systems that keep the pressure higher than in surrounding rooms. This prevents the flow of air from less sterile areas into more sterile ones.
“You also have to have a separate area where you prepare animals for surgery that’s not used for anything else,” adds Tast. “So if you have a skin infection in a dog, you are not bringing these animals into a sterile area. You have to have different kinds of areas where you are treating infectious patients and ones for clean operations, where you don’t handle infected wounds or anything like that.
“It’s also about the handling of animals, because the biggest risk is that you spread microbes when you touch the animal and you do not protect yourself. If you are not using gloves and then you, for example, touch a skin infection or an infected ear, you could subsequently spread infection around the clinic as you touch equipment.”
A group of vets and nurses from Evidensia has worked on identifying and promoting good hygiene practice in clinics and hospitals,
which they have detailed in a booklet. The aim isn’t just to spread best practice among Evidensia staff, but into the wider veterinary community and across the whole country.
“This booklet has now reached all the Evidensia clinics but we want to take a little more responsibility about this issue in Finland as a whole,” says Tast. “We have actually published our hygiene booklet so that every single veterinarian in Finland can use it freely.”